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Lewis Morris / March 13, 2015

$16 Million Bill

The Clintons have done quite well for themselves, thank you very much.

The Clintons have done quite well for themselves since January 2001, when they grabbed $190,000 worth of china, flatware, furniture and rugs on their way out the White House doors – thank you very much. No, really, thank you, the American taxpayer.

Multimillion-dollar book deals, lucrative speaking engagements and whatever it is they do at the Clinton Foundation account for the bulk of the Clintons’ vast wealth. These, though, are not the only reasons that Bill and Hillary are so well off. Thanks to the Former Presidents Act, taxpayers will have given Bill a collective $16 million by Election Day next year for a variety of expenses about which, predictably, no one really knows too much.

A recent analysis by Politico revealed that the former president has received more money through the Act than any other ex-president. The total accumulation of his pension through 2016 amounts to $3.1 million, including $218,000 this year and $221,000 allocated for next year.

The General Services Administration, which disburses the money, also allocates money for personnel salaries, accounting for nearly $3 million of the $16 million Bill has received since 2001. The GSA doesn’t dictate how that money is to be spent, so there is little information on who’s received how much, other than that most post-presidential employees receive compensation from additional sources. Politico notes that Laura Graham, one of the top Clinton Foundation officials, has seen her salary more than double since 2005. Tina Flournoy, Bill’s chief of staff, is also believed to be on the GSA payroll, having come from Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Another GSA payment includes $947,000 for communications-related costs and equipment. This vague category can include furniture or even technological hardware and software. Like an email server, perhaps.

The Clinton Foundation insists that Bill paid out of his own pocket for the secret server Hillary used during her time at the State Department. But since a big chunk of his money comes from taxpayers, and his money-making entertainment value is wholly derived from his time as president, it’s difficult for him to claim he bought the hardware using the fruits of his own labor.

Incidentally, that server, which the Clintons claim resides at the Clintons’ home base in Chappaqua, New York, is protected, like the rest of the residence, by a full-time Secret Service detail. Presidents and their immediate family members receive lifetime protection paid for by taxpayers separately from the Former Presidents Act.

This new information puts the lie to Hillary’s inane statement about the Clintons being “not only dead broke, but in debt” when they left the White House. At no time were they ever even remotely close to poverty. Hillary’s claim, meant to paint her and her husband as working-class heroes, was widely and rightly ridiculed. Since the day Bill left office, the Clintons have been part of the One Percent – make that the 0.001 Percent – and they are likely to remain there for the rest of their days, thanks in part to taxpayers.

Furthermore, Politico’s story raises once again the question of whether the Former Presidents Act has outlived its usefulness, or if at the very least it should be revisited. Enacted in 1958 to “preserve the dignity of the office,” the Act was inspired by Harry Truman’s post-presidency dire financial straits. Never good with personal finances, Truman was close to losing it all before Congress stepped in to offer a pension that could preserve a certain level of comfort for him and all future ex-presidents.

These days, however, presidents leave office with multiple tracks to financial prosperity. They receive lucrative book deals, scores of six-figure speaking opportunities, invitations to join corporate boards, consulting contracts, you name it.

Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have led a move to cap former presidents’ benefits at $400,000 per year, with deductions equal to any private-sector compensation they receive beyond that number. As Chaffetz said in 2012, “There’s little reason why American taxpayers should be subsidizing these former presidents when they’re doing fine on their own.”

Clearly, Bill is doing more than fine, and by extension so is Hillary. As a (probable) presidential candidate, she benefits from a political existence based entirely on the fact that her husband was president. Her time as a carpet-bagging senator from New York and as secretary of state were offshoots of Bill’s presidency. She received name recognition, public attention and unwavering media adoration that couldn’t be bought or crafted by the country’s sharpest PR firms. She’s not a very good politician in her own right, and it’s laughable to imagine, say, a Hillary Rodham Smith making it this far.

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